The Use of Organizational Learning Feedback Loops in the Practice of Planning: Citizen Participation and Virginia's Urban Development Area Comprehensive Plan Requirement

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Virginia Tech


From 2007 to 2011, select Virginia localities were legislatively mandated to update their respective comprehensive plans to include Urban Development Areas. The completion of the Urban Development Area comprehensive plan requirement was complicated by uneven application and codification of the legislative mandate. In 2012, the Urban Development Area legislation had been reduced from a legislative mandate to a state enabled optional comprehensive plan element. This research examines the practice of comprehensive planning in the Commonwealth of Virginia during the Urban Development Area comprehensive plan update requirement to determine legislation outcomes and the effects of citizen participation in the comprehensive planning process in relation to organizational and planning practitioner outcomes. Select local jurisdictional planning organizations were studied using the organizational learning theories of Argyris and Schön in a mixed method research setting. Conclusions find the presence of limited learning systems (single loop planning) and limited modal learning occurring within the Commonwealth of Virginia's local jurisdictions, directly affecting completion of legislative mandates. Recommendations suggest modification of existing communal planning procedures at a local and state level to encourage citizen involvement and investment in comprehensive planning and future economic development.



organizational learning, comprehensive planning, land-use planning, citizen participation